For the Sake of Beauty: A Review of King’s On Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King, Scribner, 2010

By far, the hardest part of the Writing Process is sitting down to write, isn’t it? Getting the actual words onto the blank page. Or am I alone on this? Some days I sit down and write for hours, and the words seemingly spring from my own fingertips—days when the stories write themselves. On other days, though, I can’t even find the motivation to sit down, and if I do, I don’t write more than 1,000 words; what I do usually regurgitate on those days is crap.

How then, searching through limitless writing about writing, am I supposed to follow everyone’s advice: write every day? Walter Mosley, Joseph Finder . . . Hell, even Stephen King—all their insight is the same. Write. Every. Day. It’s all fine and well if they say it. They’re getting paid. Of course they’re going to write daily.

So what about the layman? The writer who is working another full-time position to pay bills? If I could count the amount of times I’ve heard the words “If there were only more hours in a day . . .”

Let’s face it, folks. As much as we wish for things to change, which as writers we do all the friggin’ time, the book isn’t going to write itself. Yes, I’m going to batter in what all your Middle-School English teachers tried to beat into you. You have to put in the work with Language Arts. It’s not some second-hand hobby that can be picked up and tried on. If that’s what you’re looking for, take a trip to your local Goodwill. Developing skills in writing is one of the hardest things you can do, and it takes constant practice.

If you want to be a successful writer, there are things you must do and discipline you must lay on like butter, or, as some people prefer, mayonnaise. More so than your morning sandwich. If being a successful writing is something you want to achieve, you need to be willing to put in what it takes. You want the discipline dripping from the sides.

 I finished On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King last week. Yes, it was the second time. (That’s becoming a theme of this blog, isn’t it? Second read-throughs. We’ll have to see if we can change that.) Insightful at the very least, King provides his background in writing—a kind of primordial recipe for his success—and his insights on the writing process. Or, at least, the process that has worked for him.

I gathered five main points:

  1. You need to read, and you need to write: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut” King (145). The reading, I think, shouldn’t be a problem for most of us. The writing, however, presents some problems. DO IT EVERYDAY!
  2. You need to find a place to return to, a place where you can write and produce your best work. Two months ago, I found a desk at an estate sell. You can’t imagine how excited I was; it was the sort of desk I’d been looking forward to owning my entire life. Do you know where I go to write every day? The public library. There are way too many distractions for me at home.
  3. Once you’ve found your place, write with the door shut. I.e., write your story for the story’s sake, your character’s sake, or for your sake. But DO NOT write it for your audience yet. Yes, King talks of writing with Ideal Readers in mind, but do not write it for them. Once your story is finished, read and revise your story with the door open. This is when you’ll imagine your audience’s and reader’s reactions. This is where you’ll polish your turd.
  4. Narration, Description, Dialogue, & Vocabulary—King has some good ideas here, but it’s all related to his style, and everyone writes differently. It is worth taking a gander, though, because whatever he’s doing is working.
  5. In all that you write, make sure you are telling the truth. This is the thesis of his book, the point that he hammers in again and again: “. . . you are breaking the unspoken contract that exists between writer and reader—your promise to express the truth of how people act and talk through the medium of a made-up story” (King, 186).

These, of course, are insights that belong to him, which makes them subjective. Not every publisher is looking for the same thing, and there will be times when you will want to lie in your work. Not for the sake of lying, but for the sake of doing something beautiful, something that breaks all understood conventions of the craft. By breaking certain expectations. You can’t do this if you’re telling the truth all of the time, but for the most part, yes, I agree with the King.

If you haven’t had a chance to read through On Writing, I would highly suggest it. It’s written well and moves quickly. And King is successful, so it makes sense that he knows his shit. After you finish it, don’t just think about what he’s said. Write about it. Everyday.

The Midas Touch: A Review of Lackey’s Dragon Jousters

Alta, Mercedes Lackey, Daw Books, Inc., 2004

Mercedes Lackey is a machine, isn’t she? The amount of material that she pumps out amazes me, and what’s more, most of what I’ve read of hers has been . . . I’m hesitant to say the word good because I ground through her work when I was still in youth—harder to judge work when you’re a child and know nothing of actual work, and all that.

As a child I would have used the word amazing. I first fell in love with Joust. The story of an orphan serf captured slave and dragon boy, only to be presented with means of escape. I was enthralled. I read through the pages twice, more eager for the second run than I was the first.

It’s only natural, then, that I would pick up the second book in the series—I hadn’t even realized it was a series until a friend of mine informed me of that nugget in eighth-grade government class; it was period two. On my way home from my next trip to the Peru, Indiana Public Library, I flipped through my newly-rented books. Alta, the second book in Lackey’s dragon-jousting series (Yeah, it’s exactly what it sounds like), was not among them.

I can’t tell you why I waited so long to read the second installment, but I’m invaluably grateful to myself that I did. My 14-year-old mind would have adored it by mistake, just by proximity to the first book alone.

There is so much wrong with Alta that I set it down. I doubt I’ll get around to picking it back up. For starters, the author rips away the main character’s identity, giving him a new name. This isn’t a good start for former readers. I understand that, as a serf, Vetch had been freed from bondage. And it makes sense to give him a new name—Kiron; it helps for his development. However, in Alta, there isn’t any lead up to it. No description or recounting the first book for it to make sense. There is no development, just a new identity.

In Joust, the MC has an entire story arc, from farm boy that loses his family to freed slave willing to fight for his home country. In Alta, he seems to be a sixty-year-old in an 11-year-old’s body. (I think he’s eleven. Lackey says he’s not sure but has to be close to other characters’ ages.) He knows or guesses things that no prepubescent teen would. About the history of the town. Based on the shape of the city. Let me repeat that. History of a town based on the shape of a city. He’s eleven. There isn’t anything for him to make connections between, especially since he hasn’t received an education, yet he still makes the connection. And then there are times he seems like he’s six. I don’t understand it. There isn’t any carry-over.

What I do understand is that the book is arguably for young adults, and they aren’t as harsh critics. That being said, if you’re going to write for young adults, don’t fill their heads with nonsense. They are so easily molded. Give them treasures instead of trash, of which I feel, and I’m sure most would agree, authors write just for the Benjamins. It seems a little cliché, but if you want to see the world a better place, put better work in. A system can’t produce gold if you’re pumping in shit.

I gave Alta a 1-star rating on And I don’t feel bad. She’s published so much. After all that, there really aren’t any excuses.

Reviewing Rothfuss, Pt. II, A Theory of Kings

A couple of weeks ago, I finished The Wise Man’s Fear and posted a scattered reflection. I was broken, but my own Fulcrum had been found. Founded. The answer is yes, I’m still reeling from the hangover it left. So, as in tradition with hair of the dog, I picked up his novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. After setting it down a second time, my appetite still wasn’t sated and I made a mistake—I delved into fan theories about Rothfuss’s work. Come on, I’m hungry for more.

Most theories panned by fans are ludicrous, but, shifting though hours of other’s research and making notes of my own, I found that many of Kvothe seem to fit.

In fact, Captured in Words posited that—if you hadn’t guessed already, spoilers abound—the knowledge of Kvothe’s Lacklass blood is canon at this point. I know, it’s daring. Bold at the very least. But it’s also probably correct, because a lot of these things just make sense. Tally them up, love, because here comes another one.

Considering this to be true, something donned my thoughts, nose-deep in fan theories. The trilogy is coined the Kingkiller Chronicle, right? But mention of any king beside the High King himself has been lacking, and Modeg’s Rule has only been mentioned in passing. Based on Pat’s style, doesn’t it make sense that if the title of his trilogy is based on a certain action, as in the murder of a king, then the action would have been hinted at far before the third installment? It seems entirely too sloppy, considering what we’ve seen Rothfuss do in the past.

Then it struck, and my head still vibrates with the reverberations. What if we have seen the King? What if we’ve been alongside him since day one? I know, this is getting a little sketchy, but if Kvothe ends up having Lackless blood, there might be the small chance that he comes into inheritance of the throne, or, at least Lacklass lands. Kvothe’s every reader knows that he wouldn’t accept the responsibilities of the former.

But Kvothe kill himself? “Not possible, He’s alive to tell the story!” you scream at me, your tomatoes bouncing from my forehead.

Well, yes, in a way he is still alive, but he isn’t the Kvothe we’ve grown beside. He has become Kote, has presumably changed his true name and become someone entirely different. A form of death and rebirth, and a behavior that Elodin suggests is abhorrently dangerous in The Name of the Wind. (There’s our mention from the beginning, our foreshadowing, if you will.) What if he changed his name and effectively killed the king he was supposed to become?

This, in reality, only leaves me more dumbfounded. What did you do, Kote? Why have you thrown away everything you’ve built? And where the hell is Denna? Please stop beating us with your walking stick, Pat. It’s grown old.

Also, watch this:

Kvothe – Kote = VH

VH are missing. His voice and his hands. What just happened?

I have one last: We might actually have a release date for Doors of Stone. Check out this wonderful ruby.

A Review of Rothfuss

Ah, Patrick Rothfuss, a master and connoisseur of fine writing, or so I’ve thought for most of the years I’ve read his work. I fell in love with his writing style when I first encountered it. Who couldn’t? Readers can find more lore, detail, and character building in his worlds than most others have accomplished throughout their career, and he hasn’t finished his first trilogy. (What’s taking so long, Pat? We want it!)

I’ve read the Name of the Wind and the Wise Man’s Fear twice, just finishing both for the second time this year. Being rather young on the first go-round (I was barely into my third cell phone in 2011), I was in complete awe of the worlds he built. After the first time finishing, I closed the cover, tears rolling from my eyes, and consequently didn’t read anything else for a week. It was a book hangover of the worst kind. The second time I finished, I found myself closing the cover, tears rolling from my eyes, again wishing for more. Fan boys the world over eagerly await the third installment and the film production(s). (Praise Tehlu it’s in Miranda’s hands.) I ended the second reading, however, with  more awareness than I did the first, and with less stars in my eyes.

Yes, Rothfuss is a master at writing. I just can’t give the second reading as much praise as I did the first. His word usage, espeically toward the end of WMF, gets incredibly repetitive and his grammar becomes lackluster at best. Especially in the (SPOILERS) Interlude sections of the book, the writing seems lazy, even in supposed page-turning, action-heavy areas. I suppose this will be imitated in parts of the Doors of Stone, the trilogy’s next installment, as the style felt somewhat related to the plot and certain foreshadowing.

The biggest snag for me in the books was the utter convenience. I could be wrong here–I don’t have nearly as much experience as Rothfuss–but whenever he had certain convenience to wrap us parts of the plot, he did. The lead up to things that haven’t been mentioned in several hundred pages is missing, and sometimes, these events, items, or whatever they tend to be, are referenced in passing. It’s almost like Rothfuss remembers that his story asks unanswered questions, so he throws the audience a piece of stale bread for its patience.

There’s also the “Ahem,” (SPOILERS AGAIN), Deus Ex Machina of the Draccus in the end of NotW.

I understand he’s dealing with deadlines, and editing something as large as his second installment in the Kingkiller Trilogy is a nightmare in itself. He’s also very active in the community and his career doesn’t revolve around writing. So we can’t spend all our time picking through the story. If he’s doing more, we should be too, right?

I can’t willingly give The Name of the Wind or The Wise Man’s Fear anything less than Five Stars. I’m a little biased, and I’m not the only one. His fan base is growing. I stand at the forefront, clutching my signed copies of his books, impatiently waiting for Doors of Stone. I highly recommend checking out the series if you haven’t. And if you have, there are countless discussions over at Rothfussians on Goodreads regarding his books. There are some pretty good theories about his worlds too, and some of them are eerily accurate. Check them out if you have time.